Sunday, October 20, 2013

Re: Rebuke

In Fundamentalism, "rebuke" comes up a lot.  It seems to happen all the time. It happens so often that you start to think it's normal after a while - and is often equated with love, so that if someone rebukes you in a nasty way it's because they love you. And after a while, you can't separate love from anger anymore...

...but that's another post.

How does this practical theology manifest itself? The vast majority of actions God is described as having taken in someone's life are classified as "rebukes".  Such as, "this situation was such a rebuke to me that I didn't have the faith in God I needed", or "God really rebuked me about this sin via this situation".  Even blessings are often "rebukes".

Recently, I had a training session at work that really put me in a foul mood.  It was poorly done, the instructor couldn't clarify anything, and it was a large waste of time.  It began a tailspin of frustration that threatened to take over my whole day.

I ran home quickly for lunch afterwards, and began to notice that I was continuously stumbling across moment after moment of beauty. The weather was crisp and the sky azure. A stand of trees flamed purple and orange and red and yellow all together.  The radio was playing a particularly beautiful piece of music.  I found a pretty rock in my coat pocket left there by one of my children in a random act of love.

Now, when I was a Fundamentalist, my attitude towards this would have been that God was rebuking me with all these nice things to remind me I had no right to be upset.  The result - I would swallow the rage, put on a smile, and self-righteously thank God for yelling at me and putting me in my place.

But now that I'm learning more of what God is really like, I had a sudden moment of clarity realizing that these beautiful things weren't there to "rebuke" me.  They were kindnesses to show me love instead.  It was as if God was saying, "I know that was a tough morning.  They really need to hire someone who knows how to teach next time, eh?  Here's some beautiful things to cheer you up before you start your afternoon of hard work again."

God continues to show Himself to be much kinder, more sympathetic, and infinitely more loving than I had ever previously been taught.


Friday, October 11, 2013

The Maid Marian

So, Mary.

I've been thinking a lot about her over the last few years.

No, my eebil habitual-ritual Episcopal church is in no way to blame here.  Mary is rarely mentioned, and usually only around Christmas time.  But ever since I became a mother myself, she has really become an engaging figure.

My first child was colicky.  COL. ICK. EEEEEE.  We didn't sleep for the first year.  My second child didn't have colic, but we still didn't sleep for over a year.

And in that sleep-deprived fog, I wondered - was baby Jesus colicky?  Did Mary want to just sob and run away and possibly toss Him out the window at times?  There's the Away-In-A-Manger Jesus who didn't cry, but I don't buy it.  Here's a being who has lived in paradise, in a state of love His entire existence; who has neither hungered, nor felt pain, nor thirst.  And now He's a helpless infant who has a headache and is hungry and has gas and is wet and gets cold and just wants his mommy.  (And boob.  Yes, if He was anything like my two babies...)

I think baby Jesus squalled with the deepest enormity of loss possible.

Poor Mary.

She was probably 12 or 13.  And yes, a 12-13 year old then is nothing like a 12-13 year old today, but still. TWELVE YEARS OOOOOOOLD.

Would you give your really important baby to a 12 year old girl in a third world country to raise?

Didn't think so.

I think God thought an awful lot of Mary.  She must have been a pretty impressive person.

So as the interest grew, I started to read up on Mary and found that the Eastern Orthodox really really like her, and they have called her "Theotokos" - the God-Bearer - since at least the 4th century.  Now granted, it was more a statement about Jesus' divinity than Mary's role necessarily at the time, but it's a beloved name for her for centuries.  For some reason, that name really resonates for me. Plus, I love the Orthodox icon style called "Tender Mercy"; it's so very human compared to the exceptionally white overly-pious Roman Catholic depictions. They obviously love each other dearly. (Except baby Jesus usually looks kinda odd in Orthodox icons.  Sorry, Orthodox friends.)


And did you know that Christians believed from very early on that Mary was resurrected and taken to heaven 3 days after her death (or maybe even instead of dying)?  Even the Reformers largely found no problem with this belief. At first I rolled my eyes.  And then I remembered a recent science article that I read that outlined a fascinating discovery - during gestation, cells from a baby migrate across the placenta and take up residence in the mother for the rest of her life.

Can you imagine?  Mary had cells of the Divine Child, the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords hanging out in her body.  Now, I'm not trying to build theology on a shred of new science, but it's not too hard to imagine those cells wouldn't stay dead any more than the rest of Him did.  And why wouldn't God resurrect and bring to heaven the woman whose cooperation with the Divine Plan was so utterly important?  I mean seriously, Elijah got to, and he ran from God and kinda had a big self-centered pity party for a while.

Some other traditional doctrines I have some trouble with. Like the Immaculate Conception.  It seems to me to have grown out of a mistaken (IMHO) belief that Jesus couldn't have avoided the stain of sin if He had been gestated inside a sinner.  And the perpetual virginity of Mary - I'm not as hung up on sex being inherently evil as a lot of ancient theologians were, so it does nothing to Mary's character in my mind to think she had a normal married life after the birth of Jesus.  (In fact, I kinda hope she did. That would really stink to be married and not get to have sex.)  (And, in the days before birth control, only have one baby.  Babies are awesome, even if they never let you sleep.)  And the whole Queen of Heaven thing?  Kinda sketchy to me.  Sorry, Catholic friends.

Confession time - I've started praying the rosary occasionally now too.  Don't panic, so did ol' Marty Luther and a lot of the Reformers, though obviously not in its current form.  I've modified how I practice it and tried to approach the older form, mostly because I'm pretty uncomfortable asking Mary to pray for me.  I mean really, we've never met, and she probably has better things to be doing.  I don't use the Fatima prayer, because it's a recent addition that smacks of cloying Fundy-Catholicism to me.  (Yes, Catholics indeed have their Fundies.)  I'm not a huge fan of the Salve Regina prayer either for similar reasons.

But despite cutting out a lot of it, meditating on the mysteries while I say the first half of the Hail Mary (or "rejoice, Mary" as some translations put it) is a joy, and it brings peace and comfort.  So hey, I'm not fighting it.

No, I don't think anyone other than the Holy Spirit intercedes when I pray.  But Mary isn't just the disposable wrapper Christ came in, as I've heard somebody else say recently.  Being out of Fundamentalism has opened up the ability to think of a woman as someone special for once, someone to be highly honored and respected.
File:Marianne Stokes Madonna and Child.jpg

And that is just beautiful.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Attitude Copping

Today included another reminder of how opposite Fundamentalism is to the Gospel of the living God.

But let's back up, and start with an illustrative story:

My former pastor from Halfway Fundy Church sings very well.  And by that woeful understatement, I mean he has a tenor voice straight from heaven.  When I was in college with him, singing was a major part of his life.  He was in choirs, sang solos, and even won a major university-wide competition in vocal performance.  He loved to sing, and everyone within earshot loved to hear him.  His is a true and rare gift.

Once I started attending his church several years after college, I noticed that he didn't sing much at all.  We didn't have a choir and rarely had "special music", but there were occasional special events that involved music and his participation was conspicuously absent.  Now, I don't remember if I knew this from a casual conversation or if it was part of a sermon but I discovered that he essentially refuses to sing anymore.  Why?

One major reason is because he's afraid his attitude and/or motives for doing so "aren't right".

Rather than bless those around him, he buries his gift because he apparently thinks his attitude is too geared towards pride about it.  (Please note - I don't tell this story to criticize him, I tell it to show how pervasive and life-changing this philosophy is.)

As you can see, in Fundamentalism, one's attitude and motives are of paramount importance - but the above illustration is by no means the only facet of the issue.  There are a number of manifestations of this core belief.  For starters, you can be conveniently accused of not having the right attitude when someone doesn't like what you're doing, especially if they can't really prove you actually did something wrong.  The more you protest, the more obvious your "attitude problem" becomes. Or, it can be a method of controlling the tender soul, as no matter how in line your actions are with Fundamentalism's list of rules you're still not good enough. It brings paralyzing self-introspection and an ungracious judgementalism to others as you not only become a policer of deeds but of thoughts.  And worst of all: God is "unable to use" someone with a "bad attitude". Something as simple as a misplaced motive can thwart His moving and blessing entirely.  Some god, eh?

I just love how God keeps exposing Fundamentalism's tendrils in my brain with His love and goodness. This last Sunday, I heard a sermon that turned this thinking on its head. Surprisingly, it started out very similarly:
"How often do we have secret ulterior motives even when we're trying to do the right thing?"  
I braced a little for the expected moralizing to then, therefore, be sure to examine my motives and make sure they're right - dishonest wretch that I am - because I can't trust my heart, etc.  However, there was no condemnation. I was instead surprised by a completely different approach:
"The fact is, we play this game a lot in our own heads even if no one else knows about it.  And thank God that God's kingdom doesn't depend on us having the right attitude or the purest of motives 100% of the time - otherwise God would never get anything done through us."
Wait, what?  You mean I don't have to triple-scrutinize my motives to make sure they're purer than the wind-driven snow or I miss out on potential blessings?  (Wait, is desiring blessing an ulterior motive too?  Let me examine myself again...)
"Sometimes all that God needs is for us to just show up, whether we're willing or not, whether our motives are for God's glory and the in-breaking of God's kingdom around us or not, and whether we secretly hope there's something in it for us or not, and the rest will follow....   And despite our ineffectiveness and our own brokenness that causes us to act out of selfish motives, God's grace is able to claim what we do have to give and use it anyway.  God is able to redeem it."
The fact is, motives are a complex thing.  And the more you think about them, the more complex they become.  But doesn't this fit the Biblical pattern better? How many times did God interview someone for their motives before using them?  Baalam, anyone?

So worrying about my motives isn't going to purify them.  God will do that, in time.  Growing in grace, learning Love and Truth, and making mistakes along the way.  It's not my job to do, it's just my job to just show up.  And I don't have to be afraid to do something because of the possibility of impure motives.

No wonder Christ said His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Equal Equality

You know, one of the hardest pills for me to swallow when I was in fundamentalism was the whole women's equality-submission trope.  I'm by nature a fairly independent woman, and it stung every time I was denigrated or dismissed when I lived in FundyVille. 

Unfortunately, I did end up swallowing some of that bad medicine, and the damage it did is still with me (though it is healing more and more the longer I am out of it).  For a while, I even believed that women were unable to be as spiritually discerning as men - though it was really more that I believed that good Christian girls were supposed to believe it.  My soul raged and raged against the notion, but I bit back the tears and meekly said, "ok".  Surprisingly, one of my Bible Doctrines teachers in Fundy University clearly repudiated the notion my junior year, and made it okay for a good Christian girl to not believe that steaming pile.  But the daily practical theology applications still constantly whispered to me that I was less than what I was.

Then, along came "complementarianism".  It's the "kinder and gentler" conservative christian view. It supposedly acknowleges the abuses of men perpetuated on women in the world and in the name of Christianity, and walks a middle ground between that and a "unisex" culture.  Whatever that means.  Seriously, go read John Piper's treatise on it.  It's very weird.

In my experience, one of the interesting things about conservative Christian teachings on men vs. women is that it's nearly always accompanied by protestations that these statements don't mean that that men and women are unequal or that men are better than women.  Again, the longer I'm out of FundyLand, the more hollow this feels to me.  In fact, I see them as signaling direct lies anymore.  If your beliefs don't really indicate sexism, then why do they feel as though they do?  And why do you insist on telling me so often that they don't?

Anyway.  I set all this up because I recently spent a weekend at various functions associated with my 20th high school class reunion. I went to public high school, and graduated with in a class of 370 or so students.  After high school, I was in Fundy University, and then I went through a medical education - and the medical field is still pretty sexist.   So really, it's been 20 years since I've been treated like a human in an educational setting.

At the reunion, however, I was utterly flabbergasted at how I was treated by the men from my high school graduating class.  No one, male or female, made assumptions about my role in the medical field (no, I'm not a nurse).  I was treated with respect and dignity by every man I talked to.  I helped cook breakfast at one of the events, and I was the *only* woman in the kitchen.  Men everywhere were shouldering at least an equal share of caring for the children who came along with them and were respectful and kind to their wives.

Let me tell you, I was bust-my-buttons proud of my generation and my graduating class.  My eebil godless public school produced a kind, responsible, and fair group of men (and women).  It was very validating, because not only does time and distance from FundyLand ease the pain, it also makes me wonder if things actually happened differently from the way they felt. Experiences like this confirm the awfulness of what I had accepted for years. 

But no more.  Complementarians can talk out of both sides of their mouths all they like, but I don't buy it.  I've tasted real equality outside their circles, and I will never settle for their cheap imitation again.

Oh, and go Tigers. I'm proud to be one of you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Contemplating Meditation

So I've talked about my prayer beads before, and how they have helped me develop a prayer and meditation routine at a level that I have never been able to approach or maintain while in Fundamentalism. As I have continued to examine the concept of Christian contemplation, I have been surprised by the rich tradition of contemplation/meditation throughout Church history.

Part of exploring this concept occurred this past Lenten season when I began to participate in a church service called "Taizé" (pronounced Ta-ZAY).

I had no idea what to expect the first time I went to a Taizé service.  In fact, I brought my then 7-month-old son with me - partially because I thought there would be child care available, and secondly because it was right at his bedtime and I assumed he would sleep through it.  (Neither of which happened, of course.) 

Anyway.  The program I picked up on entering the sanctuary said, "Please enter the worship space in reverent silence. You are invited to use the icons, candles, cross and altar as 'windows' to the Presence of God."  In the altar area of the church there were 4 apparently Orthodox-style icons, each surrounded by many small candles. It was very quiet and still.

Once the service started, we sang simple, repetitive songs a capella whose texts were usually Psalmic in nature and whose tunes evoked monastic chant.  The songs alternated with a leader reading a scripture passage, a brief one-paragraph lesson, and a brief prayer. The main portion of the service is a period of silence ended by a bell.  That's right - silence.  At least 20 minutes of the 30 minute service, to be exact.  After the silence: The Lord's Prayer, invitation to pray individually around the altar, another song-prayer-song, and the service is closed.

Honestly, it's an introvert's paradise.  No one has to talk to anybody else, yet we all feel a kinship with each other singing and praying together.  It's solitude and community at the same time.

I was intrigued after the first experience, despite having to deal with a squirmy, occasionally noisy child the whole time. Why the icons?  Why the long silence?  Where did that complex yet deceptively simple music come from?

Upon returning home that night, I turned to Wikipedia and read that Taizé is a village in France; a Swiss man began a monastery there in the 1940's whose focus was to "live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation".  It was also unusual in that there were both Catholic and Protestant brothers there. The monastery took care of WW II refugees until the Nazis kicked them out; after the war they returned and continued their work. In the 1960's their monastery, because of their simple message, became a place of pilgrimage for many Christians - especially youth.  The community draws on traditions of multiple groups of Christians, which explains the mix of icons, candles, and quasi-chant in a small-town American protestant church.  I was fascinated.

The contemplation and meditation time was so rejuvenating that I spent the next month or so trying to find an artist to commission a triptych of Christ's birth, crucifixion, and resurrection for me to use at home for contemplation and meditation with prayer beads.  (I finally realized that the kind of quality I wanted was way out of my price range, and bought reprints of famous artwork instead.)  And I bought a few candles. And then I bought some incense cones...  Before I knew it I had a whole ritual developed at home. 

The next project? A prayer garden - a secluded outdoor space surrounded by favorite plants.  While researching that little undertaking, I discovered that there are whole books written on the subject (not to mention the rich history of plants in cloisters and monasteries).  Between my interest in medicine and my love of plants, I think I might have made a good nun back in the day - except for the whole getting married thing.  But there's always the New Monasticism...

I am still astonished that this important portion of historical Christianity is so new to me.  And I'm even more astonished at how enriching the practice of contemplation is - this restorative time of reflection has been making an extraordinarily difficult time in my life much more bearable.  How very sad that Fundamentalism doesn't value any of it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I've wondered off and on if the Episcopal church I attend is an anomaly.  Though it isn't perfect, the reverence for God, the kindness to others and the care for the less fortunate make it such a comforting and Spirit-filled place to be.  But then I start doubting that it's the norm (or even common) for Episcopal churches.  I suspect I think that because I frequently get horrified diatribes from people who think I go to a spiritually dead, apostate church.  It's really exhausting to deal with the assumptions made by people who have never been to a liturgical worship service, don't know what the Book of Common Prayer is, and don't care to think beyond what they've been told about churches other than their own.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was out of town on a trip and decided to find an early service with a local Episcopal congregation before my responsibilities began elsewhere.  I wasn't that optimistic, honestly, because the early services are usually the more formal Rite I service.  I don't mind a Rite I service, but I feel I usually connect better with a Rite II.

The church was small.  I got there a little late, and felt a bit awkward at first.

But then.  Oh, then, the Spirit was there in that service.  The people were warm, and honest, and down-to-earth; not only is that a bit out of the ordinary for many churches, it was extremely out of the ordinary for this part of the country. God spoke directly to me in the readings and the homily.  I realized it was by Divine appointment that I was there that morning - and I don't use that phrase lightly like I used to.  I was filled to the brim with grace that morning.

The reverence for God, the love for other people, the kindness - it was all there.  Just like my current church. Now I'm not saying that other churches or denominations aren't/can't be characterized by the same sort of love, but in these two very different churches a thousand miles apart, the same Spirit was there, and it was a holy time. 

And I'm sad for people who refuse to see it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

They're Fundy-ing Errybody Over Here

So, that Pope Francis.  He seems a decent fellow, eh?

Well, I like him, anyway. I was especially astonished by his plan to wash the feet of prisoners in an Italian juvenile detention facility for Maundy Thursday (the day we liturgical types celebrate the Last Supper).  It was already a big break from the usual Papal tradition of washing the feet of upper-level bishops in St. Peter's Basilica.

When it actually happened however, he ended up washing the feet of two prisoners who had the audacity to be women.

But before I get ahead of myself - something I've noticed on all the news articles I've read online about Pope Francis is that the comments repeatedly contain people stating, essentially, "I'm not catholic/Christian, but this guy is intriguing/has my respect/is someone I could follow."

So a great many non-catholics (myself included) see his actions and we are impressed. We think this seems more consistent with what God is concerned about.  We feel more inclined to think kindly of people who purport to follow God and by extension get a better sense of who God Himself is.  Even many atheists are responding positively to this Pope.

Who could possibly be unhappy with this?

The Fundamentalists Traditionalists.  And boy, are they Un. Happy.

I laughed and laughed and laughed when I read these news stories, because wow, have I been there.  I'm also learning quite quickly that there are Fundamentalist-types in every stripe of Christianity and they all use the same tricks.  Like this one:

"By disregarding his own law in this matter, Francis violates, of course, no divine directive," Peters wrote. "What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example." (italics mine)

Ha!  Questionable example!  This guy could be the Dean of Men at Fundy University with that little phrase.  I even googled "canon lawyer Edward Peters" to see what he looked like, because reading that made me picture fat wobbly jowls. (He doesn't have them.) I hear that the Pharisees thought that Christ healing on the Sabbath was a pretty questionable example too.

Even more upset was the Reverend John Zuhlsdorf:
"This is about the ordination of women, not about their feet," wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a traditionalist blogger. Liberals "only care about the washing of the feet of women, because ultimately they want women to do the washing."
That's right. You wash a woman's feet and before you know it she'll be wearing the cassock herself.  Yay! Slippery slope!  Always a favorite.

Traditionalists are lamenting the loss of the days of the sedan chair, the elaborate - read: expensive - papal garments, and the full use of the Latin rite.  They are so unhappy that they are (carefully) criticizing the Pope. (Because disobeying the Pope is apparently a lesser sin that washing the feet of a woman*.)  Though I guess I can kinda see where they are coming from.  I mean really, if a solid gold pectoral cross and being carried around among the masses was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for Pope Francis. 

Seriously though, traditionalists yet again show who their real god is.  It isn't the God of all Creation; it isn't Jesus Christ the Righteous; it isn't the Holy Spirit of Truth.  It's a knee-length skirt sedan chair and an ermine-trimmed cape; it's the KJV a church service held in a dead language.

As one particularly astute commenter also stated, "Jesus wasn't exactly a traditionalist."  Indeed.  He rather upset them on a regular basis, I understand.  Funny, that.


*Which makes me suspicious of how highly women are valued, frankly.  Been there, experienced that too.

Monday, March 18, 2013

That One Thing Part Two

I have a secret. 

I haven't told my mom that I use prayer beads.

I am terrified she'll find out someday and the disappointed sighs will begin.  There's nothing wrong with what I'm doing, none at all, and it still weighs on me in my relationship with her. I've even opened an online store selling the beads I make and would love to get her input on my designs, but I'm afraid she'll be just broken-hearted.  So I don't talk about it with her, and I hide my beads when she comes over.

But this isn't about me and my beads, this is about my brother.

"Michael" has always had a very tender heart towards God. He knows his Bible well and tries to live it.  He was a youth group leader for some time and graduated from Fundy University as I did.  He's six feet tall, muscular, handsome, and has a number of high-level belts in several different martial arts. He's intelligent too - he'll ace any trivia quiz you bring on and is fluent in JavaScript as well as Klingon.

And if you haven't guessed by now, he's also gay.

What was it like being gay in Fundyland? I can't even imagine what having such a deep secret would do to you.  Especially in a culture that constantly spews hatred towards people like you.  When my husband and I talked to a few close friends in Halfway Fundy Church about him as we struggled to come to terms with our changing beliefs, we were told things like, "He isn't letting God have full control of his life.  He isn't allowing God to change him."  My husband and I would shake our heads in frustration and look at each other with the same thought - that isn't Michael.  He would never fight God like that. That's not the answer. 

He finally came out of the closet a few years ago, and the reactions he's gotten have largely been terrible.  Fortunately, my parents didn't turn their backs on him but he's endured all kinds of ridiculous accusations from "friends" since then.  He's been told being gay means he's also a pedophile.  He's been told it was his mom's fault.  Or his dad's fault.  He's been told he was recruited into it as a young child.  He's been told he's going to get HIV and die.  And mostly, he's been told that he chose to be gay.  Here's part of what he wrote when I asked him to contribute to this conversation:
Allow me to clarify this a little bit. The belief I am listing here is not simply, “He chose to be in a relationship with him”, but “He chose to be attracted to other men.” Big difference. I would agree to the first statement, but not the second. This belief feeds the direct anger fundamentalists have at gay people. Why be gracious and caring to someone who is purposefully choosing to be a godless sexual deviant? I believe that this is one of the most damaging beliefs about homosexuality in the fundamentalist's misinformation.

I already mentioned that if you believe someone willfully chooses to be gay, you feel no need to show them mercy. This also seems to be near the root of why when gay person comes out, the fundies near them become upset and start saying things that include the words, “disappointed” and “betrayal”. They throw stone after stone, working themselves into a frenzy over the audacity for this person to chose to be gay. Hopefully, these stones that are worked up in the frenzy are only verbal. I myself have been threatened by folks that I knew for years in the fundamental circle when I came out.

My experience is that I tried desperately to be “normal” for nearly half my life. If there was ever an upbringing that you didn't want to be gay in, I had it. I'm not saying mine was the worst ever, because I know that's not true. It was not a good situation by any means, but it was not the worst situation. I know guys that lost their family when they came out. They were thrown from the house, told never to return and if they were seen again, they'd better start running. I didn't have that happen, thank God.

However, growing up I did have to deal with the fact that I knew I was attracted to men and not to women. I didn't ask for this, but with the preaching and the pressure, I assumed I somehow did. I tried to give everything in my life to God, pray to be cured from my sickness, drink deeply from the scripture and set my mind on those things. If only I could be show enough devotion to God, I would be cured. A sick sense of bargaining with God was going on. I was trying to purchase healing through dedication that began to feel more and more hollow as I felt more and more unable to please my Heavenly Father. 'I must repulse Him', I thought. 'God can't love me like this.'

I wondered what people would do or think if I told them about my struggle. I thought of the overnight activities with the church and how they segregated the men and the women. What would they do with me? Would they segregate me off to my own area? People at my age were now pairing off and getting married. That's not an option for me, I won't deceive some poor girl. My future began to look awful lonely. I pulled away from people, afraid of the the impending stigmatization and ostracism should I come out. My depression got worse and friends asked me what was wrong but I didn't have the courage to tell them the truth.

Do you see why I think this belief is one of the most dangerous ones held by Fundamental Christianity about homosexuality? This belief not only justifies people's hate for gays, but it also sinks into the minds of the young gay or lesbian mind that is raised in the midst of Fundamentalism. You are told that you have a choice, and when you can't control that “choice”, you condemn yourself for failing and heap the words you've heard all your life upon yourself.

Unnatural. Disgusting. Anathema. Faggot. Abomination.

At the close of this, I ask one thing. Please be kind to the gays you know. Odds are you cannot hate them as much as they hated themselves.

Now that he has accepted his homosexuality, he's a different person.   Or, more appropriately, he's his old self again.  The suicidality and anger and depression have evaporated.   His kindness and love are growing again.

Those are fruit of the Spirit. 

I don't completely understand it. But I understand enough to know that he isn't wrong.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

That One Thing

There's one topic on which I have made a drastic change in thought that I have studiously avoided blogging about to this point.

One of the reasons I have avoided it is because it shouldn't be the huge explosive issue that it is.  It just shouldn't.  Christians have WAY more important things to be doing.  Like loving our neighbors, protecting the vulnerable, and feeding the hungry.  This world is full of hurt, and we are called to do God's work in alleviating that hurt, not piling it on further.  It's wearying to give this topic even more attention because it has gotten entirely too much already.

But the damage Christians are causing - well, I guess that's ultimately what a blog about coming out of Fundamentalism is really about.  Damage.  Damage and hate and unkindness and abuse and manipulation.   So I can't continue to pretend this isn't an issue forever.

I recently read a news story with the exceptionally silly title of "Tim Tebow Betrays The Christian Right".  Silly, because Mr. Tebow was not elected to any position of authority in any religious organization.  He is not under any person's or organization's authority either.  He is a lone individual - admittedly with a lot of star power - who is just trying to do what he feels deeply is right.  He also hasn't been ugly about it as far as I know. (For that, I admire him.  Don't always agree with him, but I have always wished him the best.) And "betrays" is an emotionally charged word that feels way out of line here for a guy who doesn't officially represent anyone.

But perhaps that was the writer's point.  Showing the impropriety of a group of people who essentially made someone their de facto spokesman and then turned on him when he said something they didn't like. 

And what dreadful thing did Mr. Tebow do?  He had the audacity to cancel a speaking engagement at a church where the Pastor was known for making strong statements about homosexuality, Muslims, and Mormons, among other things. 

Strong is a little too, well, weak of a term.  If, for example, an imam said similar things about Christianity that he has said about Islam - no matter now "nice" of a guy he was - many American Christians would be upset and his words would be seen for the harsh rhetoric they are.  His words violate the Golden Rule and fly directly in the face of I Timothy 2:23-24*.  The Pastor's quote in that news article even seems to put soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) on par with an anti-gay stance.  That's a major red flag in my book - because if it wasn't in the Nicene Creed it isn't soteriology-level. No one should dare put it there.

Well, Mr. Tebow decided maybe he didn't want to be associated with that kind of message. 

That's a gutsy move.  Really gutsy for someone who has that particular unasked-for constituency.

Why didn't he want to be associated with that message?  I'm assuming because he understands that Christians are called to love.  Called to heal the wounded and support the weak and stand up for the vulnerable. We shouldn't be spending time instead wounding people and trampling them down. 

And we certainly shouldn't be spending time angry with or separating from someone who reminds us of that.  Just reveals how much politics and how little Christ is involved in the Religious Right.

Did you notice I still didn't get to my topic?  Yeah, this is gonna have to have a part two.


*"Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people." (New Living Translation)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Power Play

So, have you seen the kerfluffle about the 11-year-old girl who's been playing football since she was 5?  She goes to a Catholic school, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia suddenly realized she was playing and decided she shouldn't anymore because they "don't want her to get hurt".  Of course.  They're only trying to help.

I like this kid and her disingenuous replies. 
"I was mad," Caroline said after learning she wasn't allowed to play, "just really mad that we don't get the same opportunity as boys just because we're not a boy.
"Not only am I not going to be able to play, but girls all over aren't going to be able to sign up," she said. "And I don't think that's fair."
When asked whether she's gotten hurt, the crowd erupted when she quipped with a made-for-TV smile, "I've never really gotten hurt, but I have hurt people."
She's not being disrespectful when she says the archbishop's claim that he's just trying to protect her doesn't ring true. "I was just really surprised that we're not allowed to play because we're girls," Caroline said. "They say it's a safety issue, but I don't get that because it's not just a safety issue for us; it's a safety issue for anybody that goes on to the field."
Of course she doesn't understand.  This is neither about logic nor fairness.  It's about control.  For as much as Fundamentalists rail about the evils of Catholicism, they share the exact same entrenched misogyny and power issues*.

I feel for her. I said similar disingenuous things when I was in Fundamentalism because I didn't understand it was about power and not letting (especially) women have too much.  The following quote from the Archbishop gave me PTSD flashbacks:
"I admire your love of the game, Caroline, and I'm impressed by your zeal in pursuing the opportunity to play it," he wrote. "At the same time, it's important to understand that pressure is not a good way of showing respect for dedicated people who are simply fulfilling their duty to protect young people in sports."
In other words, "Sit down, shut up, and you'll be sorry you talked."  Been there, heard that.

It gets better.  In a followup article in Forbes Magazine, one of the main reasons for their decision was made clear: they are concerned about "inappropriate touching" (cue the late-night TV jokes) between male and female students. 

Despite the diocese announcing that it would be a panel consisting of "priests, parents, coaches, and medical experts would be formed to review their football policy", there was "no one qualified to talk" about law or human physiology at the panel convened to discuss the case.  The only dialogue involved "personal opinion, tradition and Vatican law". Ignore the law, ignore anyone with actual experience in the question at hand, and just talk about tradition and personal opinion. 

How familiar does that sound?  Fundamentalist University just did the same thing last November.  Never mind the number of abuse victims they have themselves miserably failed - several of whom I know personally - now they're going to tell you how to do it right, from the mouths of those who personally did the failing.

No clothes.  No clothes at all, on either emperor.  

 *I'm talking the Catholic heirarchy here, not the average individual parishioner or church. 

Friday, February 22, 2013


When you come out of a spiritually abusive environment - and talk about it - those still in it may sometimes label you as "angry". To me it seems to be a way of dismissing what you have to say - Fundamentalists are good at ignoring criticism if the criticizer is "angry" or "bitter" or "has a bad attitude".  No matter how appropriate the criticism.

I remember several times in Fundyland being taught that anger is always a sin.  Even at Halfway Fundy Church, we had a Sunday School group where the leader talked about how anger was never right.  I didn't have my head screwed on very straight at the time, but even then I disagreed with him and gave opposing examples like being angry about someone else being mistreated and Christ's anger at the moneychangers in the Temple.  Of course, the answer was that Christ could be angry without sin - but because we aren't perfect like him, it's unwise for us to be angry.

The next time someone has the audacity to say that bit of drivel to me, I think I'm going to answer that I can't love perfectly either - does that mean that it's unwise for me to love?

While perusing the blog "Commandments of Men" (written by a man who is standing up and talking about the abhorrences that are the Patriarchy, QuiverFull, and Courtship movements), I ran across this comment about anger:

"I believe that I read once or twice about this guy named Saul Paulus. There were these people in a town called Galatia, and they mixed the Bible and the main and plain teachings of the Christian faith with legalistic requirements and practices. Hmm. Sounds awfully similar to what the QF/P movement and many fundamentalists have done....

And all of that made that Saul Paulus -- that guy now called the Apostle Paul -- pretty angry. In fact, he got so angry at the people who taught the legalism at the Church at Galatia that they would be better served to castrate themselves. I think that qualifies Paul as pretty angry, not only over the fact that they mixed extra rubbish in with good doctrine but also because they used these ideas to manipulate people with them, whether it was intentional or not.

And I distinctly recall that Paul guy saying that we could be angry, so long as we did not sin.

Paul named names and was tough with religious abusers and legalists. He was often angry about it. He also talked about bearing the burdens of others to fulfill the Law of Christ and he talked about comforting others with the comfort received. Part of the healing process is a safe place to express anger and injustice and to seek justice.

The anger can be a very healthy component of healing. You cannot heal from wounds that you are too afraid to cleanse."

I was amazed when I read it - especially that last sentence.  For much of my time in Fundyland, I would come across people who were clearly angry (or  be angry myself), and we could never deal with it adequately.  Why?  Because it was unacceptable to be angry.  All you could do was bury it deep inside and deny that it existed.

This commenter, Cynthia Mullen Kunsman, has her own blog about spiritual abuse, and she has centralized a list of posts about anger.  I haven't read them all yet, but what I have so far has been excellent.

Yep.  I'm angry sometimes.  Angry at myself for falling for this nonsense, submitting to evil.  Angry at those in a position of power who used it to control other people, whether consciously or not.  Angry that spiritual abuse is so prevalent and in turn enables physical, emotional, and sexual abusers.  That makes me angry. 

Anger makes me do something about it. 

I see that as a good thing, frankly.

Monday, February 18, 2013


So I'm praying through Luther's Small Catechism on Lutheran prayer beads for Lent, as mentioned previously. 

One of the parts that was particularly eye-opening was the reiteration of the 10 Commandments*.  Now, I know the 10 Commandments, but I had always heard them in the King's English.  King James, of course.  If you're uber-crazy Fundamentalist, you believe a mind-bending bunch of illogic that ultimately results in worshiping a translation of the Bible rather than God.  If you're a not-so-crazy-Fundy you merely sniff that the King James Version is the best or the most accurate translation. ("Fundamentalists" who lean towards NASB, ESV, or especially the NIV don't usually stay long in Fundyland.)

I think that some of it is attributable to the knee-jerk Fundamentalist suspicion of anything "new".  Some of it is because certain Fundy hangups depend upon or at least are reinforced by the KJV's phrasing - the connotation leads us to think something the denotation doesn't.  And honestly, I think some of it is just trying to keep what the Bible really says a little obscure - because if you could read it clearly, you would see the guy behind the curtain.  And we can't have that.

But back to the 10 Commandments.  I stopped short when I first read,  "You must not abuse or misuse God's name." 


My entire life, I had heard this as "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."  The usual exegesis was "this is why Good Christians® don't say "Oh my God"** or use the name of Jesus as a curse.  But not abuse or misuse God's name...  that's very different. My instant connotation of this phrase was, "Don't tell people God says something he doesn't.  Don't abuse people and beat them down with God's Word."

Now right there is Fundamentalism and conservative-to-mainstream Evangelicalism in a short phrase, isn't it.

I recently had the audacity to bring up a topic with someone on which I stand fairly widdershins to "Christianity" and have been getting bludgeoned with Bible verses since.  (Which always cracks me up -  Fundy University degree here.  Pretty familiar with that Bible there.  Thanks though.) 

But on a national rather than personal level: if you asked the majority of conservative American Christians I'd wager you'd get an earful about a number of things they God apparently has a pretty strong opinion about.  You could make a BINGO card and win every time if your squares included things like "Obama = Antichrist", "Abortion", "2nd Amendment", "Teh Gayz", "Prayer in Schools", and "Muslims".

If your card instead said, "Justice for the Powerless", "Child Abuse", "Domestic Violence", "Rape", "Discrimination", "Feeding the Hungry", "Kindness", and "Love"?***  Well good luck with that one, friend.

I've blathered on long enough, especially when Lewis Wells over at his blog "Commandments of Men" discussed this political prostitution already.  Better (and in stronger terms) than I could've.  Go read it.


*Let's also ignore for now that Luther counted the 10 commandments differently from the rest of Protestant-ville.  It's not germane, even if it is interesting.

**Even though "god" isn't God's name.  It's like saying my name is "Person".  Or "Woman".  Oh, literalists.  You're so funny.

***Not that these things can't be use to beat people over the head with either. Recently been beat over the head myself by someone at work who treated me in the most disrespectful manner I've experienced in a long time and ended by telling me I just needed to have love.  It's like getting spanked by a hippie.  Seriously.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent 2013

Well, it's that time of year again - my second time celebrating Lent.  I continue to find deeper layers of meaning in the rhythms of the Church year - rhythms that the vast majority of Christians for the vast majority of Church history have followed.  And it still boggles my mind that events like Lent used to be what not-truly-Christian "Christians" did.

I'm still using my prayer beads - in fact, have lately branched out into other types of prayer beads.  (As usual, various Christian sects are good at coming up with their own version of something.)  Since last year, I've learned that there are Anglican prayer beads, Lutheran prayer beads, Orthodox prayer beads, and of course Catholic prayer beads (the rosary).  I have even started a ridiculous project organizing a Book of Common Prayer-inspired collection to use with Anglican prayer beads.  When I have enough time to string together a coherent sentence at a higher level than blog-level, that is.  (So when my kids move out?)


Lutheran prayer beads were apparently developed for use primarily during Lent, so I'm finding them a good addition for this year.  There aren't extensive resources out there about them, but I did find a good illustration of praying through Luther's Small Catechism with it that I've started using.

I remember talking with a friend when I was in Fundyland about someone in our circles who was related to Garrison Keillor.  Of course, we also discussed how she was a real Christian and so sad that he was not, being a Lutheran and all... Clearly I had no exposure to the Small Catechism then, because it's good stuff.  Better, clearer, orthodox-er theology than just about anything I was exposed to in Fundamentalism - despite hours upon hours of "preaching", camps, and completing a degree at Fundamentalist University.  Clear salvation by grace through faith.  Absolutely nothing in it that a Fundy would object to - as long as he/she didn't know it was from a Lutheran source, of course. 

Both in the Small Catechism and the Ash Wednesday service today I was impressed at how penitence is balanced with God's love and desire to forgive.  Penitence is a good thing, a healthy thing - but its only remedy is God's love.  In Fundamentalism, sinfulness was emphasized excessively, and the solution to the sinfulness was to make yourself better, try harder, just stop being such a wicked sinner.

It's so different now on the outside. Outside of Fundamentalism, penitence has its place - and its place is wrapped in the love of God.  "Trusting in the mercy of God, assured of the promises already made on your behalf, know that God forgives you."

A truly happy Lent to you, full of the loving-kindness of God.

Monday, February 11, 2013

No Soliciting

I was visited by some door-knocking evangelists recently, and was again reminded of what an offensive way to annoy people "spread the Gospel" it is. Had toys scattered all over the floor, both children demanding attention - even my mom was there - and these two elderly gentlemen with slightly crazy twitches in their eyes knock on my door.

They were probably Seventh-Day Adventists, or possibly even Mormons.  As they could see that they were quickly losing me with their initial pleasantries, one tried to launch into the spiel and asked me if I agreed that "we live in times that are getting worse and worse", or some such phrase.  I frowned, countered with "God is in control", and slowly shut the door after saying "No thank you."

However, this isn't a rant about the Fundy propensity for ineffective outdated methods of evangelism.

I've actually been stuck in a moment of l'esprit de l'escalier since then, wishing I could have those moments back - because I remember being a Fundy with the peculiar vision of modern times as the epitome of evil.  Never mind that we live better, more secure lives now than in the entire history of the world.  Modern medicine, sanitation, and education have made life exceptionally good compared to much of the past.

I'm ecstatic I live in today's world, especially as a woman.  Both I and my first child probably would have died in childbirth.  Actually, I would have died even before that from hemorrhage due to a miscarriage - not to mention whether I would have even made it past childhood.  In the majority of earth's history as a woman I would have been treated as property at best and lived a difficult and short life.

So what I wish I had replied was, "No, I think we are living in amazing times.  What, you think it was better when women were denied education and basic human rights?"  The apoplexy would have been interesting.

Fundamentalists, as part of their raison d'être, have to believe that the world around them is exceptionally evil and they alone are the guardians of a pure faith.  If much of anything out there is good, there's nothing left to separate from and be afraid of.

Don't get me wrong.  There is a great deal of evil in this world.  It's not, however, rock music, movies, or clothing styles.